New Baroque Frame Unveiled in Habsburg Tradition

Over recent decades parishioners at the church of Saint Agnes in St. Paul, Minnesota have developed a special devotion to the famous Divine Mercy image as well as the Diary of Saint Faustina and the Chaplet and Novena of Divine Mercy.  For some years now this familiar image has been on display in the lower church in the crypt chapel of Saint Agnes.  On Low Sunday this year, also known as Divine Mercy Sunday, the image was formally blessed and dedicated in a newly carved baroque frame, enshrined permanently in the upper church.  The new frame is a true masterpiece, carved entirely by hand by a son of the parish who is a local artist, Paul Sirba.

Paul studied under a Greek Orthodox master carver, Konstantinos Papadakis.  Paul himself is now a master carver, described by his teacher as, "the best detail carver in the US."  He can carve any classical style.  Take note of the depth and detail of the frame.  The wood is 3"+ thick and measures 30" x 60."  Paul used some 30 tools to carve the frame, made of solid butternut, a type of walnut.  A favorite of woodcarvers, butternut is a soft wood that is light in weight and takes polish well.  The fine wood shows oiled grain that reflects much light, having been stained with a matte lacquer finish to match the existing woodwork in the upper church.  
The frame is in the baroque style, in keeping with the Habsburg roots of the parish, a community originally founded by German-speaking immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  It depicts an interesting baroque theme: a swirl of acanthus leaves in mid-motion among classical rosettes, beautiful rose-shaped decorations.  As with all the baroque decorating at Saint Agnes church, there is a visual manifestation of truth and goodness discerned through a pure expression of beauty.  The historical role of sacred art has always been seen at Saint Agnes as a way of handing on the Faith while engaging the soul in a spiritual dialogue that is also artistic.  It is nice to see the integrity and splendor of sacred art continuing at Saint Agnes parish with a strong momentum, showcasing beauty for all to perceive and be inspired.  

Needless to say, the parishioners are thrilled with the frame and happy to see the image enshrined worthily for all to see in a proper place in the upper church (on the Epistle side). No doubt, the faithful will gather here for years to come to pray and meditate while contemplating with their hearts the words that bring to mind the mercy of God: "Jesus, I Thrust in Thee."  After all, a true faith finds its place in the heart, not in the mind.  The Catholic Church has been, over the centuries, the mother of both art and artists.  It brings great satisfaction to see the Church producing a new generation of art and artists, worthy of the name.  This brings to mind a quote from Chesterton: "If the beautification of the world is not a work of nature, but a work of art, then it involves an artist."  Congratulations to Paul for being a great artist and leaving a lasting mark at Saint Agnes.    

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